Multiple sclerosis affects the entire family. Spouses, mothers, fathers and children.
As I reflect on family this month as many of us celebrate Family Day and Valentine’s Day, I think about the thousands of caregivers supporting loved ones living with MS each and every day.
I recently heard the struggle of one family through social media, of the immense stress and financial strain they endured when one parent assume the role of full-time caregiver while also working full-time. The impact on the couple’s children, who became caregivers themselves, was distressing.
Their story is unfortunately not a unique story. Through our Listening to People Affected by MS initiative, we learned that three out of four caregivers do not have the support they need and that people living with MS worry most about the impact their disease will have on the family.
Thank you for sharing your stories through social media. Please continue to share them on our Facebook page and on Twitter. Your experiences will help my team and I drive change.
In January, the Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors), announced the release of the Employer Panel for Caregivers’ report called When Work and Caregiving Collide – How Employers Can Support their Employees Who Are Caregivers. I would encourage you to read the report and share it with employers across the country.
This report is a great start to raising awareness of caregivers’ experiences in the workplace. Many caregivers of people living with MS are still working, like Teresa Fortin whose husband Doug lives with secondary progressive MS. “She takes time off work to drive me to medical appointments and to be there for my many rounds of treatment. She helps care for me, and I want the government to recognize the vital role she plays in our family…I want better care for my caregiver,” Doug says.
While we are pleased to see this recent announcement addressing the needs of caregivers in the workplace, we need the federal government to go further. We need a national caregiver action plan to reduce caregiver burden, improve access to resources, recognize caregivers’ vital roles, and create flexible workplace environments and support systems.
We look forward to the federal government addressing these needs and ensuring Canada cares for the caregiver.